24 Jan 2011

Turkey rejects Gaza aid ship findings

9:19 am on 24 January 2011

The Turkish Prime Minister has rejected an Israeli investigation's conclusion that a raid on Gaza-bound aid ships did not violate international law.

The assault by Israeli forces on a flotilla of aid ships on 31 May 2010, to prevent them reaching Gaza, killed nine Turkish activists and strained relations between the two countries.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the report, ordered and prepared in Israel, had no credibility.

The Israeli probe concluded on Sunday that Israel's actions against the aid convoy "were found to be legal pursuant to the rules of international law".

Turkey's own inquiry had found that Israeli forces had used excessive force during the assault on the Mavi Marmara and other vessels carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza.

The commission of inquiry set up by Turkey last year interviewed Turkish and foreign activists on the flotilla.

The commission's preliminary report criticised the "disproportionate nature of the attack" and called on the Jewish State to pay compensation to the families of the victims.

The Mavi Marmara was the biggest of the vessels in the group attempting to break Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip, which was imposed in June 2006, after Gaza militants kidnapped an Israeli soldier.

The Turkish and Israeli reports are to be submitted to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has named his own inquiry panel, chaired by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, and with representatives from both Israel and Turkey.

The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council has also set up its own inquiry panel, with which Israel refused to cooperate, deeming the council hopelessly biased against the Jewish state.

Immediately after the Israeli raid, Ankara withdrew its ambassador from the Jewish state and cancelled joint war games with Israel.

It insisted said Israel must apologise over the raid, pay compensation for the victims and lift the blockade of Gaza for the recovery of bilateral ties.